From education to employment

What have Further Forces and SET for Teaching Success Taught us about Recruiting Technical Teachers?

Cerian Ayres of the Education and Training Foundation

The formal conclusion of the ETF’s Further Forces and SET for Teaching Success programmes in July was a significant landmark for all those who have been supported by them to transition into ‘hard-to-fill‘ Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and wider technical teaching roles in the FE and Training sector.

Set up to recruit, train and develop, mentor, coach and support new technical teachers of SET and wider technical routes, SET for Teaching Success responded to the well-documented teacher shortages in key subject areas. The 159 teachers recruited through it have been afforded the opportunity to develop additional skills and experience to bring to their teaching.  They have had access to high quality initial teacher education and the chance to undertake industrial or academic placements. Along the way, they’ve enjoyed the support of subject specialist mentors and coaches to develop their subject specialist pedagogy and professional practice, including technical and knowledge skills enhancement.

At the same time, the Further Forces initiative focused specifically on recruiting armed service leavers – technical experts from the Air Force, Army and Navy with an abundance of transferable skills – and equipping them with the relevant technical knowledge, skills, experience, pedagogy and professional practice to become FE teachers of SET, STEM and wider technical routes Its 129 graduates have been offered rewarding new careers, where they retain their occupational identity, and go on to inspire the workforce of the future.

The people behind the statistics

Look closer and you find a multitude of inspiring stories.

Take Philip Bull, for example. His 12 years as an engineer in the Royal Navy, and the coaching and mentoring skills he gained there, are now being invested into the next generation of engineers. Surprised by how easy it has been to use his transferable skills and to develop his reflective practices, he has set his sights on advancing into management in Further Education.

Or former combat medical technician Hannah Payne, whose training in human anatomy, physiology and health and wellbeing, coupled with her degree in Sports Science, meant she was well placed to begin a a career in FE teaching. The help she got to secure a substantial work placement at Hartpury College helped her develop her skills and resulted in Hannah gaining a technical teaching role.

Or Chris Fairclough, who, after eight years working in the nuclear industry, has become a Lecturer and Curriculum Operations Leader at the National College for Nuclear at Lakes College in Cumbria. His passion for helping to grow the next generation of engineers and scientists has seen him excel not just at his own institution, but also as an ETF and Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Technical Teaching Fellow, meaning that the benefit of his expertise is being enjoyed across the technical education landscape.

What lessons can we learn?

But the legacy of these programmes isn’t just the plethora of first-rate teachers for technical SET, STEM and wider technical subjects they have recruited, or even the thousands of learners that will benefit from their expertise and knowledge during the course of their careers. Because, while those metrics are important, so too is what we can learn from the programmes and what they have achieved.

The technical experts we want to recruit care deeply about their sector and skills

Technical experts transitioning from the armed services or industry are motivated by the opportunity to give back to their chosen sector, helping to create the next generation of skilled workers and building capacity by growing the technical talent pipeline. This is something we have heard repeatedly.

At the same time, their own place in their sector also matters to them, as the case of Ellie Bennett, combining lecturing engineering at Stephenson College while maintaining her career as an architectural designer, illustrates. Not all recruits straddled roles in the way Ellie has, but even in the cases of those who haven’t, there has been an enthusiastic response to opportunities provided to interact with and visit industry and academic contacts for immersive placements across the UK.

Effective support for those coming into FE and Training really matters

New recruits are taking a big step into unfamiliar territory and need to be properly supported. At the outset, candidates need high-quality, impartial careers advice, and when applying for placements or part- or full-time employment, assistance preparing for interviews, including the microteach they may be required to deliver, as it makes a difference. Completing pre-ITE modules or the ETF’s free Preparing for a career in FE teaching course can be very helpful.

The support they receive as they continue their journey matters too; access to personalised, subject specific mentoring and coaching is highly valued. And what some candidates have told us is particularly valuable, is the opportunity to work with an ONSIDE subject specialist mentor, who is independent of the employing organisation.

Being part of an active peer group cements new colleagues’ sense of belonging

The support of, and interaction with, peers is also highly regarded. The value of belonging and contributing to a technical community of practice has featured prominently in the feedback we’ve received. We’ve heard from recruits about the value they’ve gained from a range of activities – from contributing blogs and video case studies, to participating in termly conferences and small-scale action research projects – that have enabled them to experiment with new approaches and share, discuss and develop their thinking, pedagogy, and professional practice.

Learners value teachers with industry experience

This isn’t just a numbers game. Although recruitment from industry or the armed forces certainly is helping to address a skills shortage, the experience and technical know-how that these individuals bring with them is highly valued by students. They appreciate the ability to reference practical examples of what they are learning from personal experience, and respect teachers who deliver that.

In seeking to recruit teachers, we also find leaders

With the transferable skills they have developed in their military or industry careers, many of the trainees we have welcomed have realised their leadership potential, earning promotions into management positions. I’m pleased to say that the ETF and its partner organisations have been by their sides as they’ve progressed, continuing to assist them with their professional development.

And the ability to lead that we have seen from these individuals hasn’t just manifested itself in progression into leadership positions. We’ve seen colleagues such as Jesse Jackson, a Further Forces recruit, take on an Advanced Practitioner role, utilising his skills and experience to lead colleagues in a rapid upskilling of digital skills that helped underpin their move to blended, hybrid and remote online learning in response to the Covid pandemic.

Meeting the challenge

These are helpful lessons to remember as we encourage new teachers into our sector. The recruitment challenge persists and there is more work to be done, as the ETF’s recently published Teacher Recruitment and the Landscape of FE report reminds us. It took a snapshot of vacancies across our sector and concluded that technical teaching roles are harder to fill than those in some other curriculum areas. And the recruitment challenge remains as vital an issue as ever; these roles are key to maintaining and building the technical talent pipeline, which in turn drives skills, productivity, growth and innovation. The learners it nurtures will also help us to create a sustainable economy that enables and prioritises social mobility.

The ETF is helping to address that issue with the Taking Teaching Further programme, which is now in its fifth round and welcoming applications until 15 December 2022. The success of this initiative is underlined by some of the things we have learned from Further Forces and SET for Teaching Success. There are talented individuals out there, keen to invest in the next generation, who will make dedicated and highly valued members of the FE and Training sector team. By ensuring they are suitably supported and developed, we can help them do that, and succeed beyond our expectations.

By Cerian Ayres, National Head of Technical Education, Education and Training Foundation

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